Hotter temperatures aren’t exactly doing us any favors healthwise. Not only is there evidence that heat is re-wiring our brains, but it’s also been shown to increase suicide rates and be dangerously lethal–leading to higher rates of heat stroke and dehydration. It’s no real surprise then that cooler temperatures are generally better for us. It may even play an important role in prolonging our lives, according to new research.
In a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Aging, researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany found a type of protein complex that might play a large role in how cold temperatures extend the lifespan of worms. This mechanism reduces protein dysfunctions as the organism ages. It could also have similar benefits for human cells.
“Extreme low temperatures are detrimental, but a moderate decrease in body temperature can have beneficial effects for the organism,” the study’s authors wrote. They added that a decrease in body temperature has been shown to increase the lifespan of fruit flies, worms, and mice. Researchers have long struggled to understand why.
So the authors looked at how colder temperatures specifically impacted proteasomes, a type of protein complex involved in ridding the body of damaged or misfolded proteins. This is crucial because the accumulation of such proteins can lead to maladies such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s disease. As the body ages, though, proteasome activity declines–leading to a greater chance of age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
In the study, the researchers observed how colder temperatures around 59 degrees Fahrenheit promoted proteasome activity in roundworms. The mechanism works using a protein called PSME-3–and without it, cold temperatures do little to stop the buildup of damaged or misfolded proteins.
“[These] results suggest that cold-induced [PSME-3] can ameliorate age-related deficits in protein degradation,” the authors wrote.
The authors also looked at how moderately cold body temperatures 96. 8 degrees Fahrenheit impacted cultured human cells. They discovered that this process activated the human equivalent of PSME-3–which could help reduce the build up of damaged proteins. Moreover, they found that this mechanism worked at warmer temperatures too, suggesting that PSME-3 “can have valuable effects in human cells even at normal temperature.”
The authors note that more research is needed to find out exactly how this mechanism works in humans. It does provide a foundation for future treatment and preventions of neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s or Alzheimer’s. It’s also a reminder to cool down every now and again.
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